Last Updated on December 7, 2023
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
By Jim Ferri
If you grew up hearing your parents talk about World War II – or even if you’ve just seen a movie about London during the war, for that matter – the Churchill War Rooms in London provide an incredible experience.
Located in Whitehall in the British capital, the War Rooms are the secret wartime bunker that sheltered Churchill and his Cabinet during World War II. It’s not a reconstruction, but the original highly secret place from which Churchill ran the British government during the Blitz, and it remains exactly as it was found years after Churchill and his staff abandoned it, with a couple of wax figures added for perspective.
It’s a fascinating place that will keep you riveted for hours.
Much of it is interactive. For example, in one area there is a table that lists all of the years of the war (keep in mind that Britain was at war long before the U.S. became involved) and when you touch a year on the table it opens up a list of everything that happened during that period, including many things about Churchill. For history buffs It’s a fascinating “toy.”
Equally fascinating are the different rooms in the bunker. As you walk down the narrow brick hallways, only 4 feet or so wide, you see the bedrooms of the people who worked there, the Prime Minister’s dining room with its oblong table and four chairs, the Chief of Staff’s conference room and the tiny kitchen, among other things.
In addition to the sights, the museum also heightens your experience by playing with your senses. Pass one room and you hear the sounds of typewriters and telephones in the background. Stand by another doorway and you hear Morse code chirping away. Stand at the interactive history table and all of a sudden you hear the deep drone of bombers overhead, followed by the shadows of planes swooping down the length of the table. Moments later comes the muffled sound of explosions in the distance.
One area is devoted to editorial caricatures of the great leader, paying tribute to Churchill as the “maverick politician.” There are cartoons and black-and-white photos of him and the events that took place during his time, as well as a tribute to his wit and tongue, the sharpest of any politician dead or alive. One quote from the Daily Telegraph says it best: “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”
The museum also contains a collection of Churchill memorabilia ranging from posters right down to little Churchill porcelain statues. There’s even the door from number 10 Downing St., and a mail slot marked “First Lord of the Treasury.”
The museum’s creators have done an astonishing job giving visitors a feeling for the era, bringing together the sights and sounds of those stormiest days in war-wracked London, making you feel as if you’re almost there at the time.
Although I’ve been to many museums and attractions, I’ve never been to one that’s transports one back into time as well as the Churchill War Rooms does. It touches your senses and intellect in so many ways that you leave with a real appreciation for what life was like for those people living in that London bunker during those war years, when they didn’t see the light of day for years at a time.
If you go:
Churchill War Rooms
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AQ
020 7930 6961
Visit Britain https://www.visitbritain.com/us/en